Alcohol. Like it or not, it’s a drug. It’s sold everywhere and used by millions. It remains responsible for the third highest death rate in the nation. While the focus has rightfully been on the opioid epidemic it seems that we may have forgotten that alcohol is a substance that is often abused.
Although alcohol is a depressant, many find comfort with the short-term effects it offers. While inhibitions come down with drink in hand, the liquid courage will take over. Social circles become rooted in laughter as letting go becomes easier. Yet, as the voices get louder and the actions become sloppy, the moment takes precedence over all else. We drink to unwind from a hard day, to lose ourselves from stress, to drown ourselves in sorrow, and to escape from the person we’ve been. We binge drink because we have a problem with alcohol use.
Like other substances, it is through alcohol that we form clicks. We find those people who share our need to ‘get away’ from ourselves. We use with them and we rely on them. However, binge drinking creates the opportunity for developing dependency issues – both physically and mentally.
The recovery community is no exception to this.
Within the recovery community there seems to be a lack of understanding and equal ground – mostly on the meaning of recovery. While an individual’s own recovery will not be the same as another, we can’t forget, overlook, or ignore that the basis of recovery is (and should be) the same for everyone – to become a better person.
Many will readily argue that the way anyone chooses a path in recovery is his or her own. These same people it seems are quick to jump in support of their peers – whether known personally or by way of an online recovery group. These unhealthy, like-minded people have already formed an equally unhealthy bond, and it leaks out, spilling onto the well-being of others and those that do want to change and become better people.
There are also these like-minded people who will allow for what they choose as being acceptable. These people also have no problem utilizing a gang mentality. Should anyone disagree or speak up on their own accord, mainly from being human and having emotions, then this crowd sees them as a target, like aggressive bees circling the hive and then going in for the kill. A sick mind attracts a sick mind.
Too many social clicks have been made that excuse choices that should not be excused. There has become this need for recovery to be a safety net and a crutch. But this comes at the cost of not recovering. Being a part of this community does not give anyone a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Sure, many are in recovery. But when we begin to make bad choices and to act in negative ways, accountability is a priority. No part of recovery is a reprieve for wrongdoing. No part of recovery allows for anyone to do as they please. There’s a difference between making a mistake and choosing to act in negative behaviors.
While someone may appear to have his priorities straight and is offering advice that could be necessary to help another succeed as they continue on their own path in recovery, it does not mean these people are recovered. Some of them have changed their own rules, remaining behind the scenes doing exactly the opposite. They are stuck in their old behaviors. They have formed alliances that willingly hinge on these negative behaviors. They are drinking. They are using. They aren’t well.
What’s worse is that instead of coming forward and admitting to their own setbacks and relapses that have spiraled into active addiction, and actively pursuing a road back on to recovery, they have decided that because they are not using their drug of choice it is not a relapse or a problem they are experiencing. Because they have opted to declare that they alone are in charge of their recovery and in control of their actions that they are not experiencing a setback. The truth is that while most come to the online recovery community with the full dedication to recovering from substance abuse, there are the few that aren’t here to become better at all. They don’t care about becoming better. They are actively pursuing those actions that thrive on their old behaviors.
To those of us remaining devoted to becoming better people, we shake our heads in disappointment. These select few have declared to have mastered a life without their drug of choice while rewarding themselves with the gratification needed by their unhealed mentality of active addiction. Yet even though we know this is happening here, speaking up about the problems we see have somehow been viewed as being too abrasive. It’s not okay to speak honestly because it is seen as making accusations or just a personal attack on character (even with proof). Even when we are speaking honestly, we are told to tread lightly as we could push someone to use again. But why is hiding behind reality a justification? Why has hiding from reality become an accepted norm for recovery? If we cannot speak honestly, especially to and about those within this community who are actively using, then who are we really helping?
But what’s worrisome is the idea that this has become acceptable for anyone in their recovery. More troublesome is that the ones giving themselves this pass for permission to drink are looked up to in their online groups and are sought after for advice by those not knowing the truths that they hide. While they are sitting bar side, they are answering messages to those losing hope and focus. While they become drunk, they are calling an ex or people they are no longer in association with and doubting that their own intoxication is noticeable in the pleading and incoherent voice mails they leave. They are either drowning in the desire of playing the role of a victim needing to be saved or they have just decided that they are in control of their alcohol consumption.
What do we notice on the other side of these people? It’s simple. They are abusing alcohol. They’re drunk. They’ve relapsed. They are in denial that they have a problem. They have changed their own rules of recovery to allow for using and abusing alcohol. They aren’t drinking one or two and walking away, they are out of control while playing the part of saint in every other aspect of their lives. But isn’t this what addicts do? Addicts hide behind the truth while manipulating those around them. Alcohol has become a crutch and the recovery community seems to overlook it or dismiss it.
In this country alone, one in every 12 adults suffer from alcohol abuse. The problem with this is that those who are binge drinking are also creating the opportunity for developing dependency issues. Dependency is the physical need for a substance, yet binge drinking can often begin with the need for feeling socially accepted. Social settings all too often involve alcohol and in turn, alcohol becomes the bond. Repetitively engaging in this act is making the choice to do so. A person is only setting his or her self up for failure.
Recovery is about a person improving his or her health, wellness, and overall quality of life. Recovering from drugs and alcohol is a process. It is about choosing to refrain from using substances that would otherwise hinder one’s improvements. Alcohol is the most predominantly used substance of abuse among people in recovery. Alcohol is the most accessible. Regardless of how many abused substances exist, ethanol (or ethyl alcohol) is the most common.
Did you know that being served drinks in restaurants and bars doesn’t follow to any pre-set standard for ethanol per ounce? One mixed drink can throw this rule out. One draft beer changes the amount being consumed per drink because of size difference. But, as addicts and those well versed in recovery, we know that changing the rules is what happens when someone wants to be able to use at will. The rules won’t apply to them. What is a general standard for all, suddenly excludes them. Addicts are conniving, it’s what addiction has taught them – to put the using before the not using.
Those unable to refrain from loss of control when alcohol takes over, should refrain from the use of alcohol. While this topic can be debated until blue in the face by many, the simple truth remains that those abusing alcohol need to be told when it is first noticeable. Those within this community that have actively chosen to relapse and are now making excuses for the alcoholic binges in which they participate, will continue to do so until they see a problem themselves or one is brought to their attention. It is important to pay attention to the actions and words of others. If the reasons start to give permission for his or her using alcohol, then it is obvious he or she is relying on alcohol.
Nature vs. Nuture
Genetics have often been to blame for alcohol consumption. Environment is also key for understanding the underlying reasons why someone drinks. It cannot be argued that both of these (nature vs. nurture) contributing factors play a part in abusing alcohol. When a recovered addict moves out of active recovery and back in to negative behaviors then this should be acknowledged by those noticing it. It is contradictory to say that honesty is the basis for recovery while hiding behind the fear of the repercussions for speaking honestly. The simple truth is that those that do wrong will stand defensively about their own wrongdoings. If a person wants to drink, they will. If a person wants to binge drink, they will. If a person wants to ignore a problem with alcohol, they will.
But for the rest of us in this community, is it something we just begin to excuse? Because of who it is or because of the good that they’ve done for others, does this make it acceptable for the rest of us to ignore it? Or is it okay to push this issue on to someone else to deal with because of friendship? Is it okay to overlook someone’s abusing alcohol for any reason?
Those that have existing genes that change the pleasure signals in the brain will be at a disadvantage when using alcohol. People like this become vulnerable to alcohol and the changes it brings. Moreover, the addiction that is already prevalent in the brain then demands more of this change due to the pleasure it receives when using alcohol. This will bring someone from social drinking to binge drinking alone, in a short time period. Therefore, the once recovered person has now become addicted to alcohol.
It’s important to note that those with addiction as a predisposition in genetics are more impulsive than those who do not have these genes. These people are not only more susceptible to acting without thinking beforehand, but while they make bad choices they feel a sense of invincibility, which in turn escalates their bad behaviors when abusing alcohol. It is these types of people who can’t stop once drinking begins. It is these people who become uncontrollable and will damage and endanger the lives of those around them. People having genetics favoring addiction, will make catastrophic decisions when using alcohol. In no time, the person once living a life in active recovery has relapsed into living actively in addiction. This then becomes the familiar cycling of hiding and lying, living dishonestly while publicly pretending to be someone else.
With so many hiding behind the screens of electronic devices in the online community, it should come as no surprise that not all are who they say they are. The truth is that some people are making poor choices despite their own histories with overcoming an addiction. Even worse yet is that those closest to them are in denial of the problem or remain afraid to mentioning the problem. So who’s to blame?
Another issue causing concern is when children are a part of the addict’s environment. Children learn what they see. Growing up in environments where alcohol remains prevalent more often than not will become a problem for them as they too are adults. As adults they are then more susceptible to adopting the same behaviors. If children are also being raised without an awareness of drugs and alcohol, they will move into relationships as they grow, unaware of the real life consequences of alcohol and drug abuse. Is it fair for us to ignore these issues because of the fear of upsetting a friend when children are involved? Have we become so hesitant in our truth telling that we don’t see it important to protect children? Our standards have definitely run rampant in changing to appease the masses. Too many are overlooking the problems with alcohol that exist and that are persisting within the online recovery community.
Those of us living in sobriety and having learned about recovery know that addicts lie to themselves in order to maintain an addiction. Just because a person denies a problem with alcohol does not mean the problem does not exist. Someone telling his or her self that one drink is fine but loses control, or that certain occasions are acceptable to partake in alcohol but loses control, are the ones that will begin to frequent those allowances. They will make it a point to stop at the bar when they feel down. They will go to a restaurant for dinner just to get the drink they want. They will be a part of a crowd that uses alcohol as a social glue. They will not refrain from those places where alcohol is served or abused because they will begin to seek them out. Recovery is no longer a priority as the priority has become about alcohol.
In recovery it is important to have positive and honest peer support. Without this, it is easy to slip back into old behaviors. Boredom also leads to these old behaviors. Avoiding boredom is a must. As more become dependent on social media due to boredom, they will binge here probably not even aware that this too is a gateway into those old behaviors. Not having an active, positive lifestyle leaves an addictive personality at the mercy of those unhealthy behaviors. In the beginning stages of recovery a new habit and healthy outlets are necessary. The longer one remains in these negative behaviors, the least likely they will be able to change these negative personality traits at any point in their recovery. Anyone not developing healthy behaviors in the beginning of their recovery is more likely to be unsuccessful. Those unsuccessful in their own recovery, unfortunatley, will not be helpful to anyone around them.